Sunday, 3 September 2017

SEPTEMBER'S AUTHOR by Sharon Tregenza


Joan Delano Aiken was born on September 4th in Mermaid Street, Rye, Sussex, England. 

Joan Aiken 1924-2004

It was no surprise that Joan Aiken became an author, she was surrounded by writers all her young life. Her American father, the poet Conrad Aiken, won the Pulitzer Prize and her mother, Canadian Jessie McDonald Aiken, was also an author. Later her mother remarried and Joan's stepfather was yet another writer - Martin Armstrong.

Aiken was raised in a rural area and home schooled until she was 12. Her mother often read to her from the works of Dickens, Scott, Twain and other popular authors and it was here that Joan learned to love stories of adventure. She was alone much of the time and amused herself by creating imaginary worlds.

She married Ronald George Brown in 1945 and they had two children, John Sebastian and Elizabeth Delano.

Her first success as an author was when, in 1941, the BBC broadcast some of her short stories on their Children's Hour programme.

Aiken began writing The Wolves of Willoughby Chase in 1952 but her husband became ill and she put the book aside. He died in 1955. After working as a copy editor for several years she completed the book in 1963. It won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.

Many books later The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is still considered Aiken's most popular work. The series is set in an alternative history when James 11 was never deposed. Aiken also plays with the geography of a London where wolves have invaded the country from Europe via the Channel Tunnel.

Aiken married the New York landscape painter Julius Goldstein in 1976. They divided their time between Sussex and New York. He died in 2001.

Interesting Facts about Joan Aiken:

1. She wrote more than a hundred books in several different genres.

2. She was a life-long fan of ghost stories.

3. Her first home, when she was married to Ronald Brown, was a converted bus.

4. She wrote stories for the much-loved BBC's Jackanory series.

Joan Aiken died aged 79 at her home in Sussex on January 4th, 2004.



Mystica said...

Totally unknown to me, I was very glad to read this post.

Sharon Tregenza said...

Thank you. :)

Sue Purkiss said...

Very interesting. From the bare facts - two times a widow, her life sounds rather sad - but also very rich.

Sharon Tregenza said...

Yes, I thought the same thing. Apparently, she shunned publicity and led a quiet life. I wonder if she would be able to do that now. She was one of my favourite authors. I loved her titles. :)

Penny Dolan said...

Joan Aiken has always been one of my favourite authors, so thank you for this reminder!

Sharon Tregenza said...

Mine too, Penny. :)

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

I didn't grow up reading Joan Aitkin but read her to my sons over meal times when they were tired after school. I loved her titles... the Wolves of Willoughby Chase... how exciting was that. But recently I reread it and felt it had lost some of its power for me. Perhaps one shouldn't reread books that were once loved????

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

sorry! Aiken!

Sharon Tregenza said...

Oh, really, Dianne? I was thinking about rereading them. Maybe, I shouldn't. I made that mistake with Alan Garner and those childhood books lost their magic for me. :(

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks for this, Sharon - love Joan Aiken's books!

Sharon Tregenza said...

Me too, Joan. :)

David Thorpe said...

Hi Sharon: I still like Alan Garner. His prose style mainly but also his love of landscape and legend. What put you off?

Sharon Tregenza said...

Hi David, I too still love the legend and landscape but I felt that maybe the stories were just a little too derivative. Then, of course, many books may well be derivative of HIS work. :) Thinking about it now - perhaps I've simply lost the ability to accept magic as a fact the way I did as a child. Isn't that sad.

Sue Barrow said...

She also wrote 'A Necklace of Raindrops' a beautiful title for her compilation of enchanting short stories for children. My daughter loved them.

Sharon Tregenza said...

I love that title too. :)